Literacy Tips

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of September 17th

posted Sep 19, 2017, 8:35 AM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Sep 19, 2017, 8:36 AM ]

Analyzing Relationships: Using Compare and Contrast

Learning to compare and contrast different ideas deepens students’ understanding of what they read. How should you begin? Have students think of a question that compares and contrasts concepts, characters, or story elements. This can work for both fiction and nonfiction books. You can introduce this during a whole-class read aloud. You might ask students to compare two characters in a story or two different stories they have heard. Comparing and contrasting key ideas in nonfiction may present some challenges. However, learning this strategy will help students better understand increasingly complex text they read as they advance through grade levels.
Watch this video of literacy expert Jan Richardson working on compare and contrast with second graders. Note how Jan first models how to do the task and then supports students as they compare and contrast and then begin writing. She provides extra support with the Yellow Questions card from our Comprehension Box Set.
Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of September 10th

posted Sep 8, 2017, 12:23 PM by Courtney Richardson

International Literacy Day

September 9 is International Literacy Day. Help children become lifelong readers by inspiring them to read at home and school. Research from Scholastic shows that when kids have a large home library, they are more likely to be read books for pleasure 5–7 days a week. The research also provides actionable takeaways any family can embrace to inspire a culture of reading at home, including:

  • Ask family members, friends, librarians and teachers for book recommendations: In each country, children ages 6–17 find their best book ideas from many different people and places. Top sources are:
    • 51% of kids in the U.S. say teachers and school librarians
    • 45% of kids in the U.K report the library
    • 72% and 82% of kids in Australia and India, respectively, look to their parents
    • 50% of kids in Canada get ideas from friends, siblings or cousins.
  • Find books that make kids laugh: “Make me laugh” is the #1 quality kids ages 6–17 look for when choosing books to read for fun (42% U.S., 63% U.K., 61% Australia, 62%, India, and 46% Canada).
  • Set aside time to read aloud together—and keep it going as a child gets older: An overwhelming majority of children ages 6–17 reported they love (or loved) read aloud time at home and the top reason was “it’s a special time with my parent,” yet many parents stop reading aloud at age six.

Encourage home reading and give personal book recommendations ​to your students based on their interests.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of September 3rd

posted Sep 5, 2017, 9:17 AM by Courtney Richardson

Ready or Not, Here they come!

I recently met and befriended a first-year teacher in a school just over the ridge from our farm. Last week she came to our house to get some books I wanted to donate to her classroom library. When I asked if she was ready for her first class of students, she responded, “My room is ready, but I don’t know if I am.” Well, ready or not, the kids are coming! She doesn’t know it, but she’s going to be a fantastic teacher. She’s energetic, bright, hard-working, funny, and compassionate. Best of all, she’s a passionate learner. She reads every professional book I’ve given her; she seeks one-on- one PD; and she’s invited me to teach in her classroom so she can learn how to teach guided reading. Whether Shawna realizes it or not, she’s ready to enter the most wonderful of all professions—ready to be a teacher!

Have a great summer!

posted Jun 4, 2017, 5:33 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Jun 4, 2017, 5:33 PM ]

We will be taking a break from Literacy Tips for the summer. Check back in September for more great tips!

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 28th

posted May 29, 2017, 5:23 PM by Courtney Richardson

Improving Comprehension During Guided Reading

Guided reading provides a perfect opportunity to support students as they reflect on the text. Sometimes I find myself focusing too much on the accuracy of the reading. It is important to prompt students to fix their errors and problem solve unknown words, but it is equally if not even more important to use teaching moments to help them understand what they are reading. After all, comprehension should be at the heart of reading. Fountas and Pinnell tell us, “Readers are always actively working to construct meaning, so comprehending is an ongoing process rather than simply the outcome or product of reading” (Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency, 2006).

Have you found that some students struggle to tell you what they read in their own words? Stop, Think, and Paraphrase (STP) is a terrific tool to help these students. For more about this teaching strategy and other great ones for improving comprehension, see Chapter 7 in Jan Richardson’s book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading.

Here are the steps to use STP:

Step 1: Have students read a page in their new book, then cover the page and prompt them to retell what they just read in their own words. Offer support and scaffolding.

Step 2: Hand out STP cards (ours are part of the Comprehension Box Set) and ask each student to STP to themselves after they read a page.

Step 3: Place one or two sticky notes on random pages of each student’s book. After students read a page, have them write a short note paraphrasing what they read on the sticky notes (level K or higher).

To view more details, including pictures and a video clip, follow this link to Michele's full Teaching Tip on the Pioneer Valley Books website.

Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 21st

posted May 22, 2017, 1:05 PM by Courtney Richardson

Character Feelings versus Character Traits

I recently received a question from a second grade teacher who is struggling with how to teach her readers the difference between a character feeling and a character trait. A feeling is a response to an event. Feelings often change throughout a story. A character can be excited at the beginning of the story, scared in the middle and proud at the end. When I teach children this strategy, I insert a sticky note on three pages where the character’s feelings change. Then as children read, they write a feeling word on the sticky note. I often give students a few feeling words to choose from so they don’t write trite words such as “happy,” “sad” or “mad.” Once children acquire a bank of interesting feeling words, I give them a copy of the Character Feelings and Traits chart from page 327 in my new book. This makes them responsible for choosing the best feeling word for each page.

A trait describes what the character is like on the inside. Traits do not usually change in a story. Traits are usually revealed by the actions a character takes in response to an event. For example, if a character is bullied and he stands up to the bully, then the character is courageous or bold.  If a character wants to help someone in need, then the character is considerate or thoughtful. Try out the progressive steps on page 271 of my new book and use the character feelings/traits chart in appendix M. 

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 14th

posted May 14, 2017, 7:11 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated May 14, 2017, 7:12 PM ]

Do Intermediate Students Need Word Study?

I recently worked with a fourth grade teacher in North Carolina on The Next Step Forward Framework. She said that the most enlightening part of the lesson for her was the word study. She expressed how as an intermediate teacher she never felt competent teaching phonics because she was never “taught” how to teach it. With Appendix A (The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, p. 289ff) and the Word Knowledge Inventory (page 324), she felt confident that she could analyze her students’ needs and help fill in the phonics holes for students who are struggling and need intervention. These students needed systematic word study instruction in meaningful and interactive ways. The best part of this story is that the teacher said all her students LOVE WORD STUDY and never want her to skip it. By following the Appendix and the Word Study procedures laid out in Jan’s book, you can teach phonics using the most efficient, effective, and engaging activities.

Written by: Sandra Weaver, Next Steps Guided Reading consultant.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 7th

posted May 8, 2017, 6:44 PM by Courtney Richardson

Teaching Sight Words during Guided Reading

In Appendix F of The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (2016), there are sight word charts for monitoring progress at text levels A-I. Each chart has ten words that are appropriate for each text level. I chose the words by searching leveled texts from a variety of publishing companies to see which sight words appear most frequently at those text levels. I’ve also considered the developmental spelling needs at each level. The words in levels A and B are mostly phonetically regular because at those levels students are learning to hear sounds in sequence. The words at level C and higher are less phonetic because at those levels students need to learn how to retrieve words using visual memory. The charts and procedures are slightly different from those in my first book. 

Here’s why:

• I reduced the number of words to teach at each level to ten. Based on my work with primary students, ten is a more realistic number.

• At the recommendation of a Reading Recovery Trainer who read the manuscript, I extended the sight word lists to levels G, H and I. Children need to be taught sight words at these higher text levels to promote fluency. As children develop automaticity with a core of known words, they free up more cognitive space to process new words.

• I changed the last step for “Teaching a New Sight Word.” The last step is now “Write It (and retrieve it).” Students write the new word, saying it in a natural way as they write it. This mimics what they do when they write stories. Do not let students segment the sounds or spell the word. After they write the new sight word, dictate a familiar word to write. Then have them write the new sight word one more time. This small revision requires children to retrieve the new word from their bank of known words and prevents purely rote memory.

Don’t forget to have students write three familiar words at the beginning of each lesson. Children need to work with a sight word many times before it is firmly known.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 30th

posted May 1, 2017, 12:59 PM by Courtney Richardson

What’s New in Next Step Forward?

Every day I receive encouraging emails about the positive impact my newest book, Next Step Forward in Guided Reading is having in our nation’s classrooms. Although it contains the same theory and lesson framework as my first book, The Next Step in Guided Reading, there are significant differences:

Video-clips – With the purchase of the book, you have free access to 51 video clips of me teaching guided reading with Pre-A through fluent readers. The short video clips are perfect for personal viewing or a school-wide book study. 

New Chapter on Comprehension – The last chapter of the book is devoted to teaching comprehension to all students, grades K-8. I’ve identified 12 power strategies and included step-by-step modules for teaching comprehension in whole and small group settings. I love this chapter and refer to it every time I’m asked to model a reading lesson. 

Professional Development Guide – Reading specialist Ellen Lewis, one of my trusted colleagues, wrote a helpful online professional development guide that is available on the book’s website. 

Spiral-bound – This is not a book you read halfway through and then store it on your bookshelf. It’s a teaching guide that stays on your reading table. The spiral binding makes it easy to fold so it will take up less space. 

Color-tabbed – Each chapter is tabbed with a different color so you can quickly find information on a specific reading stage. 

Reviews from Amazon: 

- “I love this book even more than her first one. So user-friendly with great resources in the Appendix. The videos for each phase of development really help you internalize the techniques. You’ll refer to this book often and want to share it with colleagues.”

-  “A must! I’m a Reading Recovery teacher, this is well organized, user friendly, and power packed…”

-  “This is hands down the best guided reading book. It only leaves my table to come home with me.”  

-  “This has everything you need to help in setting (up) guided reading groups whether your student is a beginner or proficient reader.”

Next week I’ll share why the sight word lists in the new book are different from the ones in the old book. Change is good as long as it is based on research and solid theory.  More to come… 

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 23rd

posted Apr 22, 2017, 2:48 PM by Courtney Richardson

Tell students what they are learning and how it will help the them

Remember to tell students what they are learning at the beginning of the guided reading lesson. For example: Say, “Readers make inferences as they read. An inference is using clues from the text and adding what you already know to make an educated guess. At the end of the lesson, say, “What did you learn today that will help you be a better reader?”

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